Just another sentimental drabble. Excuse my mistakes. Ignore them and I hope you enjoy this short story.
“So how’s it going? Do you feel sore?” Sam sat on the end of the bed. He was extremely exhausted as he had not stopped visiting one patient after another. Lancer Ranch was his last stop. Influenza was spreading like wild fire and he had his share of trouble trying to keep up. He stretched and twisted his neck trying to loosen the stiffness.
“Hey Sam, want to crawl into bed and rest up some?” Even ill, Johnny didn’t like seeing his friend so tired.
“Thanks Johnny, wish I could take you up on your offer, but I have to go back to my office and check if any other family needs me. I’ve got to tell you I am glad the flu is slowing down.” He stood and patted Johnny’s leg. “Glad you’re the last one here to have gotten it. Not glad you got it the worst. Rest and don’t argue!”
“Even if I wanted to Sam I couldn’t. This has drained me something awful….” He wasn’t able to finish when the door was kicked open. Johnny tried to reach for his gun on the post of his bed, but the intruder beat him to it.
“Don’t think you need that boy!” He turned to look at Sam. “You the doc?”
“’Who’s asking?” Johnny responded for him.
“Boy, if you are aiming to get yourself hurt, you be best to keep your mouth shut.” The man turned back to Sam.
“Yes, I am the doctor.” Sam just stared at the man.
“We need you downstairs now!” The stranger moved out of the way and gave him space to walk through. “Bes t do what we want or they’ll be more patients for ya’ to deal with.”
“Johnny?” Sam looked at the sick boy.
“I’m OK Sam. Go on.” Johnny pressed his head back on the pillow angry that he didn’t have the strength to attach the man. Just as he was thinking about what he could do, he felt the man grab his arm and drag him out of bed. As he stumbled out of bed and the man instructed him to get his pants on. Johnny fell back on the bed and the pants were thrown at him. He took in a deep breath hoping to fight the nausea and dizziness. The man was gracious enough to wait.
After a few long minutes, Johnny finally managed to get his pants on and was reaching for his shirt, when the man pulled him up and pushed him out of the door. Johnny landed face down in the hall, but lifted up and dragged downstairs. As they entered the great room, Johnny managed to see his family sitting together each with a startled look. Murdoch whispered loud enough for Sam to hear.
Sam stood up straight from behind the couch where he was tending to an injured boy. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? That young man is seriously ill!”
Another man looked up as well. “Jeb, get him sitting over there.”
Jeb pulled Johnny to sit next to his father. Murdoch wrapped his arm around his boy. “Johnny?”
“Ummm, I’m K.” Johnny lend into his father’s shoulder.
“We need a blanket for him?” Murdoch spoke firmly and demanding.
Jeb just stared at him then went upstairs returning with a blanket from Johnny’s room. He handed it to Murdoch who took it immediately wrapping it around Johnny.
Sam went back to the injured boy. “He’s bled a lot. I’ve done all I can do for him.” He stood and wiped his bloody hands on a towel.
The man looked at the injured boy and then told Teresa to go get clean water for Sam. Sam just stared at the man.
“What are you going to do now?” Looking over toward Johnny he sternly added. “That young man needs to be in a bed!” Sam was furious and didn’t care showing it.
“He’ll have to wait doc. Sorry, this boy gets your full attention for now. Get cleaned up and go sit.” He man just paced back and forth glancing back at the injured boy. “Will he live doc?”
“Do you really care?” Doc was not in the mood for this intrusion.
“Doc, don’t think I won’t hurt the kid over there. You seem to be awful worried about ‘em. Hate to have him need your services for something more serious. Now answer me.”
“He might if he gets the care that is needed.”
“What kind of care?”
“Bed rest and monitoring round the clock with the proper fluids might to help him fight infection.”
“For how long? I mean, if he gets this care, how long before he can ride?”
Sam sighed and rubbed his chin thinking of Johnny’s impatience with getting out of bed after being shot. “Depends on the boy. He seems strong enough to fight, but if he doesn’t get what he needs, he’ll die.”
“I asked ya’ how long will he need this care?”
“I can only guess. Three days at the least.”
“Fine, three days it is. Can he tolerate riding in a wagon?”
“Not now. He’ll start to bleed. He can’t afford that.”
“When?” The man knelt down next to the kid and touched his forehead.
“Maybe tomorrow, depending on how he does….” Sam hesitated. He really wanted them to leave, but his oath would not allow him to lie. “…he needs to rest tonight and possibly tomorrow as well.” He glanced at Murdoch who shook his head, sighed and bowed his head down while holding tighter to Johnny.
The man stood and nodded then he walked back and forth thinking. “Mr. Lancer, I guess you’ll be having some overnight guest. Where can we put him until he’s ready?”
Murdoch was astonished. ‘He wants his friend to be comfortable, yet my son gets thrown out of his bed.’ He did not answer the man and just ignored the question.
“Mr. Lancer please don’t try my patience’s. I need a bed for the boy.” He walked up to Murdoch then placed his hand on Johnny’s forehead.
“Has a fever. Jed, take this boy up to his room…. carefully.” He looked at Murdoch. “See Mr. Lancer I can comprise. Now is there a bed for the boy?”
Murdoch nodded. “Teresa can show you a guest room.” He stood as Jed picked Johnny up. “I need to be with my son.”
The man hesitated, “Jeb check out the boy’s room and make sure there is no exit or weapons. When Jeb gives me the all clear, you may join him, but please remember Mr. Lancer, I have your ward and your other son here with me. Is that understood?”
Murdoch just nodded and waited for Jed to return. Sam started to walk with Jed. “Where do you think you’re going doctor?”
“With my patient, I doubt your man will make sure Johnny is properly returned to his bed.” Sam just kept walking then he turned to say more. “When I finish with Johnny, I’ll go check on the boy.”
Jeb returned and gave the all clear. Murdoch flew up the stairs. Sam was still in the room getting Johnny settled in the bed. “Sam, what can I do? Is he all right?”
Sam looked up at Murdoch. “He will be now that he’s back in bed. His fever spiked. I’ll have Teresa make some tea. You keep bathing him down the cool water. I’ll see what I can do to convince that man to let Teresa help you out.” He turned to leave. “Murdoch, do you know these men?”
“No Sam. They said that they had ridden into town looking for you and they were told that you were here at Lancer, so they came looking for you.”
“I am sorry Murdoch.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry for Sam. Go take care of that boy. I’ll be here with Johnny. Thank you Sam.”
Sam went downstairs after checking on his two patients. He looked at Scott and Jelly then nodded to indicate everything was all right with Johnny. Scott released a breath he was holding in. Jelly just mumbled a Thank God. Teresa was in the kitchen cleaning up the instruments Sam had used on the boy’s injury.
They were left alone in the great room for a short while. “Sam, is that boy going to live?” Scott was really worried that if he died the man might just do something to his family.
“Like I said Scott, it depends on the boy’s stamina. He looked healthy enough to fight off any difficulty and he will be getting the rest he needs, so there’s a good chance he’ll make it.” They heard the man walking back in.
“He looks comfortable now. Thank you, doctor. The girl is going to be keeping an eye on him. You three will be staying down here until we get ready to leave. Jed and I will be keeping an eye on you until then.”
Both boys were fighting a fever during the night. Between watching over the boy and making tea for them, it became too much for Teresa to handle on her own, so Jelly was finally used to help out. Murdoch kept a strong vigilant on his son and never left his side. He’d get reports from Sam on the other members of the family and was thankful that the man was keeping his end of the bargain by not harming anyone as yet. Johnny’s fever finally broke and he slept soundly for the rest of the morning. Murdoch took advantage of this and rested his eyes for a bit.
Then he heard a commotion out in the hall, he quickly stood and opened the door. He got to see Sam running into the guest room with Jelly following closely behind. Teresa ran out of the room and down to the kitchen. ‘God please don’t let anything happen to my family.’ He looked down at his sleeping son and walked out to see if he could hear anything from the other side of the door.
He could tell that the boy took a turn for the worse and that worried him. That meant that they’d be staying longer. He went back to Johnny’s room and saw that he was awake. “Son, how do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been trampled by some wild horses, my body aches and my energy is spent.” He moved a bit and looked at the worry look on his father’s face. “They still here?”
“Yes, son they are. Don’t know how long they’ll be here. I think the boy got worse.” Murdoch peeked out the door and the guest room door was still closed. He turned and gave Johnny some tea then watched him fall right back to sleep.
Sam finally came into the room. Murdoch stood up and helped him to the chair. “Sam, you look so out of it. Sit and rest a spell. Tell me is…. the boy all right?”
“For now, his fever spiked and was convulsing, but we put him cool water and he’s holding his own. Murdoch, don’t know how much more I can take.” He stood to go touch Johnny’s forehead. “My boy here is doing better, good. At least he is going to be fine.” Sam flopped back down on the chair.
The door swung open and in walked the man. “Doc, we need to get moving. Give it to me straight. Will he die if we do?”
“Yes.” Sam just sat and looked solemn.
He just stood there, hands on his waist thinking until he finally spoke up. “Mr. Lancer… I know we intruded in your home and took you all for hostages, I apologize for that, but I was desperate.”
Murdoch did not say a word and waited for the man to say more.
“I can’t continue to impose on your family, but I can’t take him with us.” The man just sighed. “He’s my little brother. He shouldn’t be a part of my mess. I didn’t have a choice, but to have him with me. Now he is paying for my screw ups.”
Murdoch still didn’t say a word and continued to listen.
“I just want you to know that his is an innocent in all this and well, he needs to… “ His voice started to tremble. “I just can’t take him with me and I don’t want him to die.”
He looked at Johnny. “Madrid here was lucky to find you. Maybe my brother can find the same luck if you’d be kind enough to watch over him until he is better to go off on his own. He sure doesn’t need an outlaw for a big brother.” He looked at Murdoch.
Murdoch was surprised that he knew Johnny as Madrid. He looked at Johnny then back at the man. “He’ll be safe with us. I promise.”
Nodding and grinning with gratitude, the man sadly said, “Guess I’ll go say my goodbyes.” He turned and stopped. “Tell ‘em… tell ‘em it was for the best and that I….” He didn’t finish his statement and walked out, but they knew what he wanted to say.
Sam and Murdoch watched from Johnny’s window as the two men rode off. Murdoch turned to check on his boy, who was now staring at his father. “What ya’ going to do Murdoch?”
Murdoch slanted his head a bit and smiled. “Keep my promise son and maybe give that boy a chance in life.”